Friday, December 30, 2011


Well, I just wanted to take a second to thank everyone for reading the blog since it's inception in 2010. It started as a way to clue my family in on all these adventures so far away from home, and has turned into so much more. I'll keep posting throughout 2012, as I continue my pursuit of outdoor exploration, hiking, trail and ultra-running across the Southwest.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Year in Review - 2011

Is it really over? What happened to 2011?

It's getting harder to differentiate the passing years, to me it still feels like 2010, I guess putting everything down in writing helps remember all those events and adventures. Personally, this year began a little rocky, so I channeled all of my energy into running (of course), and found myself pushing the physical limits and testing my mental toughness. Beyond that, a few more unexpected surprises unfolded as the year progressed and most of my immediate family visited the valley of the sun for the first time.

Shall we start with the running? I ran two of the Arizona series Xterra races early in the year as part of my training regimen for the upcoming ultras I signed up for in March and April. Placing top ten in both events was a good start and certainly a confidence boost heading into my biggest challenge yet, running 50 miles! A few short weeks later I was standing at the starting line of the Old Pueblo 50 Mile Endurance Run in Southern Arizona, ready to take on my longest run to date. Then came Zane Grey. Regarded as the toughest, roughest 50 mile trail race in the country, it held up to it's reputation, at least for me it did. Never before was I concerned about actually being able to "finish" a race. I almost didn't. Finishing that run was a major accomplishment, and having the opportunity to compete against some of the country's best ultra-runners was quite memorable.

There was no time to ride that high any longer, another opportunity arose that changed my focus for the remainder of the year. More on that later. The month of April stood out in my mind for a couple of reasons; finishing Zane Grey was a big one, and the rim-to-river trek in the Grand Canyon with Bob and Mark was surely one of the best weekend trips in a long time. To top it off, I met Brittney. Then summer rolled around and it was hot, really hot! We had nearly 40 days over 110 degrees, so weekend trips up North were a must.

It started with a large group outing to Fossil Springs in June, followed by kayaking at Watson Lake and Walnut Canyon in July, rafting the Salt River, and finally a camping trip up Mount Lemmon in October (October is still considered Summer here), which was a blast! Oh, and did I mention plenty of time at the pool?

I accepted a scholarship to run cross country for a junior college here in Phoenix for the fall semester of 2011. Hesitant at first, I decided to put ultra running aside for the time being to race against athletes 10 years younger than myself. I enjoyed the competition, yet one thing is for sure, racing is a entirely different experience when everyone is fast! The highlight of the season came in October during the Mt SAC invite, where we faced off against several West Coast teams. I put everything I had into this race, leaving nothing on the table. I battled my way into an 11th place finish on one of the fastest, most brutal cross country courses in the nation. My best race of the year was also my undoing, leaving me sidelined with a season-ending hip injury.

Several weeks of uncertainty, and a lot of discomfort in my hip prevented me from doing the things I love to do. Although, I did have a great deal of support and discovered something I enjoy almost as much as running...sleeping in! Thanksgiving weekend was great, and the trip to San Francisco (see earlier post) with Brittney turned out to be one of my favorite vacations ever! The holidays are always nice in Phoenix, especially now that I am back on my feet and running with my friends. Total mileage on the year was a little less than the last, only logging 1,601 miles and approximately 260,000 feet of elevation. Next year will be different, I am aiming for 3,000 total miles in order to be more successful running the ultra distances. Let's see how it goes!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mount Ajo Peak

Mount Ajo Peak - Hike
Organ Pipe Cactus NM
Ajo, Arizona
Mileage - 9M
Time - 4:30
AEG - 2800ft

Winter weather in Arizona creates the opportunity to explore areas south of Phoenix that would otherwise be too hot during the summer months. The ongoing search to discover new places (and summit a mountain in the process) continued this weekend a mere five miles from the Mexico border. Matt, Ryan, Justin, Bob, and myself made the long haul down south for a challenging, yet scenic hike through a very pristine desert environment.

Mount Ajo Peak (pronounced Ahh-ho), is the 33rd most prominent peak in the state, and awaited our arrival the day after Christmas. At 4,808ft above sea level, the mountain is rather impressive in stature, and gains it's prominence by towering over the surrounding Sonoran Desert. The real draw here is the plant life, particularly the Organ Pipe Cactus, with the largest concentration in the United States found only in this region. The conditions in the park are ideal for cacti, we saw some of the tallest Saguaros and Cholla outside of Saguaro National Park in Tucson.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

San Francisco 2011

No race report for the North Face 50 Mile Endurance Challenge, although I did spend a few days in the city, which was awesome!

An early flight on Friday put Brittney and I in San Francisco around 8:30am, on a sunny morning in the bay. We picked up the rental car and headed over the Golden Gate Bridge, past the Marin Headlands to our first stop; Muir Woods National Monument. Since we visited the park on a weekday, the crowds were pretty slim, at one point we actually had the trail to ourselves for a while. These Redwoods truly are magnificent, a real natural wonder. The park itself is not all that big in terms of land mass, but the volume of trees in one condensed area will make you think otherwise. We had a little time before check-in at the hotel, so a side trip to Muir Beach sounded like a good idea. The weather was unusually warm (70 and sunny everyday), so the two of us relaxed in the sun and listened to the crashing waves for a while before going back into town.

I reserved a pair of road bikes for us to tour the city on Saturday from Bay City Bike, which we picked up at their shop downtown and rode over to check out Fisherman's Wharf. I'm not going to lie, even though the sun was out, it was a little chilly on the bikes. After riding through the city, we headed uphill towards the main attraction; the Golden Gate Bridge. This part of the ride was quite a rush. The wind whipped across the bridge making the exposure more dramatic. Clear skies made the views of the city and surrounding hills unbelievable, and literally, there was not a cloud in the sky! Finally some downhill as we coasted into Sausalito for lunch and a break from those bike seats! My timing to catch the ferry across the bay worked out perfectly, and we enjoyed an upper deck boat ride back to the city. The day concluded with shopping at Ghiradelli Square and a Sushi dinner.

A vacation to San Francisco wouldn't be complete without a trip to Alcatraz. After breakfast on Sunday, we boarded a relatively crowded boat departing for the island. It wasn't long before we arrived, maybe 15 minutes or so. The group received instructions from the rangers, grabbed our headsets, and ventured into the compound for a 45-minute self guided audio tour of the prison and listened to some of the most infamous escape attempts in Alcatraz history. Pretty cool! Brittney and I explored the island a while longer and then caught a ride back to the mainland. The day wasn't over by any means. We had to keep the tourist streak alive by going for a ride on the trolley. It worked out nicely though, and made short order of the hills leading into Chinatown, where we stopped for a late lunch. Then it was back to the hotel to relax, order pizza (yes, I've been know to eat pizza occasionally), and watch Sunday night football. Wow, now that I really think about it, this was an awesome vacation!

It's hard pick a favorite part of this long weekend, everything we did was so much fun...and way less painful than running 50 miles! Brittney was excited because I believe she is now the un-official "mayor" of San Francisco. I'm pretty certain we'll be back to the bay sometime next year.